Is Social Media Shaping the Animation World?

The effects of social media are constantly changing and ever evolving, with every new platform or idea the public seems to follow. Some may not follow until later, or some might be the first to join the new form of social media. One thing that is apparent, everyone and everything are on some form of social media now, whether using it to better themselves, for entertainment, or to be relevant.

Social media has even changed the animation community; not just affecting the artists themselves, but the animation companies as well. It has led artists to use the platforms as portfolios, companies to use social media as a connection with fan bases, and the steadily growing phase of user-generated content to help/hurt artists.

Artists and Social Media

When you use Facebook, Instagram, or even Twitter and you come across an animator’s page the first thing you notice is how heavily their art is incorporated within the page itself. The posts are all of their doodles, characters, and scenes that they have created and then posted onto these platforms for anyone to see. By doing so they are putting themselves out there and letting their work show.

Danah Boyd  states that “[n]etworked publics…are…the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice” (1). Social media is a network that everyone uses, but it can also be used in a more professional manner by using it as a place to show off artists’ works.

Artists’ social media pages have turned into online portfolios for any person to see versus sending portfolios to specific people or companies. Some artists’ pages even include options to contact them directly. If an artist works for a specific company, especially a highly esteemed company, they include their job title within their biographies or the about me section. Examples include: Dave Pimental, a Feature Animation Director for Walt Disney Animation; Mike Yamada, a Visual Developer at Walt Disney Animation; Philip Summers, an artist for Shamoozal and a freelancer; and Lauren Faust, the Creative Steward and Executive Producer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. All are artists who work for large companies and utilize their social media in a more professional manner to showcase their skills.

One thing that I did find when searching for Lauren Faust on Instagram is another woman with the same name. That does not seem too odd until you click on her account, which is private, and listed in her bio is “I am NOT the creator of my little pony!! Creepers…😒.” So, she had been mistaken for the artist Lauren Faust on her social media and had to privatize her account because of how many people mistook her for the artist and wanted to follow the other Lauren.

Public versus Private

Above brings to question the public versus private spheres. The public sphere means anyone and everyone can have access to a social media account and information. But, if you share similar names, handles, jobs, or information with a famous or well known personality your personal space will be invaded by strangers…whether you want the attention or not. Lauren on Instagram had to make her account private because she was uncomfortable with the misconception of who the account belonged to, so her fix was to privatize her Instagram account. When you privatize Instagram you have to approve of people who want to follow your account, so you have some control over who can see your information. But, it is still out there and so she added to her bio the information that she is in fact not the Lauren that everyone thinks she could be.

Animation Companies and Social Media

The use of social media to expand your audience and information has been noticed by big companies as well, which led them to create their own accounts on various forms of social media. Companies like Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Animation, Dreamworks, and many more now have their own accounts. They all have their own Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube pages to almost advertise their content. The use of advertising on social media indirectly, as in not paying  for it, has been widely accepted and spread. But, the way the advertisements are set up are to not be seen as advertisements. For example, this post by Disney Animation on their Instagram account is to talk about a surprise for some panelists or guests and added in is a reminder that you can now purchase Moana on blu ray.

Companies are now using these platforms to advertise without having to pay big bucks. But, now there are sponsored posts that appear in timelines and threads when checking social media. Those ads are paid for, but especially on Instagram they are imbedded in such a way that you do not immediately realise you are looking at an ad.

As stated in “IT-Enabled Broadcasting in Social Media: An Empirical Study of Artists’ Activities and Music Sales”, “[b]ecause of its fast speed and low cost, broadcasting in social media has recently evolved into a new form of Internet marketing” (529). An example by the Disney Animation company is by creating a YouTube page to insert clips from their movies and shorts, artists work, and promotions.

The only problem brought to light in this new age of social media and animator/artist convergence is that of competition. When web 2.0 was created it allowed for more user generated content. As time progressed and more social media outlets popped up, it allowed even more user generated content to be broadcasted and shared.

Crowdsourcing and its Effects

Ross states in “Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory”, “[t]he transfer of work outside of the traditional sites of production was only part of capital’s response…[another way to] casualize workforces wherever possible” (34). Things like this led to companies using crowdsourcing and gamification to use artists and not give them revenue for their works, but in some cases it did get their names out there. Yet, it calls into question the actual importance of participating in crowdsourcing as an artist, especially the use of crowd creativity with things like Doodle4Google, 99 Design, and Tongal.

Do artists join in the hopes that their art will be chosen and publically attached to a company, or is there a legality issue and their art will no longer belong to themselves? In theory crowdsourcing seems like a good idea: artists are able to show their creativity and get their work shown on a big platform. But, it could easily backfire on the artists and they could not get the right recognition that they deserve.

In Short

The art industry has been and will always be a very competitive field, no matter if you are an animator, concept artist, visual developer, or anything else in the arts field. The added impact of the twenty first century and the steadily growing and ever changing internet and social media will continue to make the field harder and more competitive. But, it will also allow unknown artists or those interested in the field to network and share their work on a large public platform.

One thing that no one can deny is that social media is changing the world around us, it is everywhere and everyone is on some variation or platform of social media. The big question to ask is if social media will begin to hurt and or harm artists’ lives in the future.

References:

Danah Boyd. 2010. “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), 39-58.

Hailiang Chen, Prabuddha De, Yu Jeffrey Hu. 2015. “IT-Enabled Broadcasting in Social Media: An Empirical Study of Artists’ Activities and Music Sales”. Information Systems Research 26(3):513-531.

Ross, A. 2013. “In Search of the Lost Paycheck”. In Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory, 13-33. New York: Routledge.

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